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Letter: Soaring Parking Fees Put Us Off Shopping in Guildford

Published on: 23 Dec, 2020
Updated on: 23 Dec, 2020

From: Graham Richings

Today my wife and I needed to go shopping into Guildford for essential items (December 21). We parked the car as we always do in the Sydenham Road multi-storey car park for 45 minutes. I have used this car park since it was built.

In recent times, it has always been £1.30 for one hour and £2.60 for two hours. When I returned to the car park and put my card in the machine it showed I needed to pay £3.00. That is a massive increase of well over 100%.

I believe this increase has been imposed since last week. I last parked here two weeks ago when the lower charges were in force. Is this Guildford Borough Council’s (GBC) idea of Christmas spirit?

The borough website’s car parking page has a quote from Cllr James Steel and starts: “We hope these new rates will encourage more people to visit Guildford and to stay longer in the lead-up to Christmas and throughout the holiday period, as we increase our support for local businesses at their busiest time of the year.”

What planet are these people on? Since last March, and lockdown, this and other car parks in the town have been very lightly used through no fault of our own. I personally shall not use this car park as I have in the past and will do all I can to avoid parking in Guildford. Is GBC shooting itself in the foot or has April 1 come early?

Cllr James Steel

The following response was sent by lead councillor for Environment, Cllr James Steel  (Lib Dem, Westborough) direct to Mr Richings and copied to The Guildford Dragon:

Dear Graham,

Thank you for your email. I’m sorry to hear that you were disappointed with the new parking tariffs. The attached sign was used in the car park to show the change to tariffs and they list alternative car parks should you want to stay for a shorter period. We are also communicating the changes through our corporate and partner social media and in the local press until last week when government guidance changed for our borough. However, we will see if we can do more to ensure we communicate the changes clearly for all residents.

The intention of the changes to these “shopper” car parks is to increase value for money for those who stay longer in the town and this is exactly what we are trying to encourage. The effect is a reduction of cost from £1.30 per hour to £1 per hour for longer stays. Our town businesses and Business Improvement District Experience Guildford are very supportive of these changes and we have been careful to balance a good mix of short-stay (one hour or less), shopper and commuter parking to support all of our residents, visitors and those who work in the town or commute.

Our new shopper rates at these car parks compare very well to our nearby shopping towns of Woking and Kingston, for example, if you spent just one hour and one minute to two hours in Woking it would cost you £3 and for two hours and one minute to three hours it would cost you £4.50 – three hours and one minute will cost you £6.

In Guildford, our “shopper” car parks are £3 for three hours which is for a stay up to three times longer for the same cost and for £6 you can have six hours – up to twice as long as in Woking, where you will have to pay £6 for three hours and one minute.

In Kingston, the charges are £2.30 per hour in the centre, so a one hour one minute stay would be £4.60 and three hours £6.90. So if you come to Guildford instead, and pay £6 you get six hours, cheaper than spending three hours in Kingston. If you stay for three hours in Guildford this will cost you a not insignificant £3.90 less than the same time in Kingston, and of course you may also save on fuel.

I believe this makes Guildford parking exceptional value for money for our shoppers, and why our retailers were supportive and keen for us to move quickly and bring this in before Christmas.

I do hope this explains the new tariffs and reassure that you’ll be able to pop in for an hour and pay for an hour at many locations. Also when we are no longer in Tier 4 lockdown and it is safe to do so, we would encourage you to stay longer and enjoy everything Guildford has to offer.

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test 9 Responses to Letter: Soaring Parking Fees Put Us Off Shopping in Guildford

  1. Steve Grove Reply

    December 23, 2020 at 11:18 pm

    I experienced the same thing the other day, popping into town to collect a book from Waterstones. Charged £3 for my stay of 30 odd minutes. Cllr Steel states that the “shopper” charges are to allow people to stay for up to three hours for a charge of £3, saving a paltry 90p at the old charge for three hours.

    But by charging £3 for 3 hours, people will generally stay that length of time, thereby depriving other users of parking spaces, thus reducing the number of people in the shops.

    Also perhaps, should people be staying for three hours in town in the present circumstances?

    I have just checked GBC’s website for car park charges (at 23.15 hrs on Dec 22) at the Castle (Sydenham Road) car park and it states the charge for 1 – 3 hours is £1.30 per hour. There is no mention of “shopper” charges.

  2. Paul Jarvis Reply

    December 24, 2020 at 8:20 am

    I totally agree with Graham Richings – it’s absolutely ridiculous. I regularly pop into town to do the odd bit of shopping or pick up some bits. Very rarely do I stay more than an hour. £1.30 to pop into the bank for 10 minutes always seemed a bit steep, but £3 is, frankly, robbery.

    It’s a great way to drive locals away from the High Street (many of us that use it live further out so can’t realistically walk in).

    I’d be interested to know how the council decided which car parks are ‘shoppers’ and which are not. I’d hope this was based on some real useability data rather than them just picking the ones they want.

  3. Rob Smith Reply

    December 24, 2020 at 10:32 am

    Surely they should encourage people to come to Guildford to use the remaining shops which have not closed yet due to COVID and high rates. To justify the increase by saying it is cheaper to stay for six hours than in other towns sums up the uncommercial short-sightedness of their attitude.

  4. Martin Elliott Reply

    December 24, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    There is an unfortunate trend in many areas of decisions and debates to state what are beliefs.

    Or as the great Victorian Engineer, David Kirkaldy, had above the door of his test house, “Facts not Opinions”

    Where is the evidence that the metrics put forward of duration and comparative cost of other shopping towns are Key Performance Indicators for town centre parking operation.

    Graham Richings is not the only voice expressing several opposing views, not least the failure to update the website yet after four weeks.

    There have been many similar conversations for instance on Facebook.

    I’d have hoped the ‘we know better about what shoppers want” clique in Millmead had been re-educated after Village 1 & 2.

  5. Janet Moorhouse Reply

    December 24, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    If GBC really wants to encourage shopping in the town centre they should allow the public to use the Portsmouth Road car park during the week as well as at week-ends. It is reserved for contract holders on weekdays.

    Also, they should encourage some “useful” shops in the town centre.

    Where can you buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread, except for making a trip to the basement of M and S?

  6. Howard Moss Reply

    December 26, 2020 at 8:08 am

    Perhaps Janet Moorhouse could try buying a pint of milk or a loaf of bread in one of the following located shops in central Guildford as opposed to “just M&S” Tesco Express, Sainsbury Local, Co-Op, the news agents at the bottom of The Mount, the Chinese food store, or Waitrose. I mean, come on how many more shops do you need?

  7. Keith Stacey Reply

    January 2, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    Even if you purchased goods from any store you will still have to park somewhere and if you are grocery shopping only £3 is extortionate in anybody’s language. Do not forget there are more and more shops closing down (including coffee shops). I came into Guildford pre-Christmas week and it was like a ghost town. The government (thankfully not Lib Dem) has asked us to save our high streets. There are obviously some people who are doing their best to shut them down.

  8. C Gummer Reply

    February 14, 2021 at 11:52 am

    Drove into Castle Car Park and found a minimum price of £3 for a visit expected to take less than an hour. Got back in the car and went to Godalming.

    Net result – Guildford parking loses my income, the shops lose my income and I tell others who now won’t use Guildford for short, frequent visits.

    Putting the price down to £1 an hour to encourage more and longer visits seems to be beyond them.

  9. Martin Elliott Reply

    February 14, 2021 at 5:44 pm

    The whole episode of changing the timing/fees and lack of systematic evaluations, adequate consultation and publicity has horrible deja-vu.

    Remember the out-of-town car parking changes at Sutherland Memorial Park, Horsley’s etc? If they had done a survey of who actually used the car park, why and for what, they were badly ignored.

    This time there seems to be a total disconnect between intent and the national situation. Amazing.

    Like the previous time, long delays before a dose of reality and no doubt, excuses of legal layers to reverse decisions.

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